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Monday, 1 October 2018

Vale Charles Aznavour

Charles Aznavour as Charlie Kohler, Shoot the Pianist,
(Francois Truffaut, France, 1960)
The BBC reporter on ABC News Radio this morning gave a terrific report on Charles Aznavour and his singing career - 100 million records sold, "Singer of the Century" (Time Magazine), and more and more, especially concerts that continued up to his death yesterday. But not a movie title mentioned. An oversight

For many of us, notwithstanding his appearance in Euro movies like Taxi to Tobruk (Denys De la Patelliere, 1960) two films for Georges Franju, The Tin Drum (Volker Schlondorff, 1979) and others, the only film he made in which the image is indelible was Francois Truffaut's Shoot the Pianist  (1960).

Charlie, the cafe pianist with a tragic past, was one of the great creations of the New Wave and the film itself ticked every box for budding enthusiasts who loved its irreverence, the frank casual nudity (cut by the censor of the day), the plot taken from a David Goodis pulp noir novel which plunged the action into a quotidian Parisian world of cafes, bars, cheap hotels. It also had the cinephiliac joke whereby the crooks in the film were the same two guys who played the cops in Godard's Breathless, There were the little homages to other movies, the creation of the exuberant younger brother Fido (Richard Kanayan)  essentially a piece of inspired script improvisation by Truffaut himself, and, at the end, again the early Truffaut trope of the repetition of shots. It seemed magic film-making and I suspect if there were a poll of favourite New Wave movies it would be still be in the top handful.

Time to  remember Charles Aznavour one more time so watch Shoot the Pianist again to recall a great entertainer who gave the performance of his life way back in 1960 and contributed to the education of a whole generation of cinephiles.

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